Where will you get your local news

Where are you going to get your local news from? Local news sources are scarce and becoming more so. The Bay Post/ Moruya Examiner and Narooma News have recently undergone considerable changes with dramatic cuts to staffing and more recently an introduction of a web-site paywall. Traditional newspaper sales are down as readers find less and less newsworthy content and the presence of investigative journalism into more complex local issues is a rare thing indeed. The “newspaper business model”, as it’s now derisively known, has imploded. The internet has poached most of Australia’s newspaper classified advertising. The money that financed quality journalism for a century is disappearing, with no likely replacement. Large-scale commercial journalism has become unviable, and no one has yet found a formula to subsidise “public trust” journalism in the way newspaper advertising did. The Bay Post has recently changed its website model that will require readers to pay $1 per week to read articles online. They say “We are ensuring the future of our hardworking small newsrooms and hope our readers agree that $1 a week for the stories that affect their community is good value”. Unfortunately this decision has seen a backlash from the community who once were able to read the local news, sports, community news and classifieds on line. Followers of the Bay Post facebook page, still attracted by “click bait” links to full stories on the website find they can’t access articles unless they first subscribe with a credit card. Others (based on social media comment) who have taken on the subscription for the trial period are less than satisfied with the new website and its content. Readers of the once vibrant, informative and dedicated local news source are moving towards the sister paper of the Narooma News that is still free on-line. Following the recent shakeup of Fairfax readers of the Bay Post and Narooma News of a Wednesday are noticing a melding of the two papers into one with many of the headlines and articles now repeated in both editions including editorials and letters to the editor. The Narooma News and the Bega District News are still under the old open model and are fast attracting new readers, away from the Bay Post, by those in search of local news. So where are you going to find your local news if the quality of journalism is sliding and the financial viability of the traditional print newspaper is no more? The Monthly wrote in their article "The death of Fairfax and the end of newspapers", For Australia the story is more significant than just the demise of an industry business model. In a small robust democracy with relatively little commercial quality journalism, it has the makings of a civic catastrophe. For most of their existence these papers have been pillars of public accountability and scrutiny. They have exposed corruption and maladministration, campaigned on issues and undertaken the expensive and risky investigative reporting that has held power to account. “Of all the world’s newspaper companies fighting for survival, few are as vulnerable as Australia’s 172-year-old Fairfax Media, publisher of the Age, the SMH and the AFR. No other major global newspapers depended as much on profits from classified advertising as the SMH and the Age when the internet arrived.” What happens next to local Fairfax newspapers will profoundly affect our community. Without the Bay Post and Narooma News where will you go for quality local news? The radio? ABC South East radio has also been through the mill with cuts and the ABC in regional Australia is destined to suffer more cuts again and each time there are cuts the sphere of local news gathering diminishes as news becomes more “regionalised”. Eight years ago the Tuross Giant came into being as a reaction to the complete lack of any Tuross news in the local print media beyond occasional sports results or social function photos. The local print media has long taken Council media releases and reprinted them as “news” to pad out pages of advertisements. There has been little, if any, investigative reporting of Council matters and certainly little interest given in matters that would specifically affect Tuross Head and its residents unless it was controversial enough to sell newspapers. It was clear there was room for a local Tuross newsletter to Tuross Head and the Tuross Weekly News and then Tuross Giant was born. Over the years there have been many requests from other townships wanting to replicate our local newsletter however, once the commitment to the task required was outlined, none have taken up the challenge. Under the new media paradigm we now face, which might well see the end of local news as we know it, the only thing we have available to us is to make an effort to explore new ways to inform ourselves. Council offers its e-news and provides an occasional newsletter in the mailbox. The media releases Council once provided local newspapers no longer appear as “news” on-line, cutting off that avenue of “news” and; under the distribution algorithm of Facebook any news feed you might subscribe to from sites you follow will be piecemeal. Facebook’s financial model now requires sites to “boost” their posts by payment of a fee to reach all followers. The end result is that we, the community, will become less informed of local issues due to our inability to find intelligent news as our newsfeeds diminish into one-liner click bait headlines on mobile devices that link to a precis of a story, often embedded within a surround of garish advertising, written by an under trained, underpaid and under-resourced cadet. Some food for thought.

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